Without the D-League’s No. 2 and 11 prospects — Malcolm Thomas and Michael Frazier, respectively — the D-Fenders nevertheless managed to squeeze past the defending champion, Santa Cruz, 104-101. The game was tied with little more than two minutes left when Vander Blue’s three-point play pushed L.A. ahead for good. The D-Fenders’ defense clamped down in the final minute to secure victory in their home opener and move to 2-0.
“This is the result you want and hope for,” first-year head coach Casey Owens said. “I think we worked very hard for both wins. There’s a lot of good we can take out of them, (but) we’re still making a lot of mistakes.”
D-Fender of the Game
Manny Harris: Returning to the D-Fenders after a season in Turkey, Harris was frigid through three quarters, going just 4-of-12 for nine points. But the No. 5 prospect turned up the heat with the game on the line, going 4-of-7 in the fourth, along with five free throws for 14 points.
“The whole game I wasn’t all the way into it,” Harris said. “My teammates did a great job of carrying the load and keeping me going and motivated. It wasn’t the best game for me, but the key thing was we got the win.”
Vander Blue (17): In the second game of his second season with the D-Fenders, Blue matched Harris with 23 points, providing 11 in the first quarter. The former Lakers call-up went 7-of-20 from the field and also added four rebounds and four assists.
Robert Upshaw (20):
The 7-footer ended with six points and six rebounds, but his biggest contribution was on the defensive end. In 21 minutes played his presence threw a curveball at Santa Cruz, which struggled to hit at the rim.
“He’s a monster,” starting point guard Josh Magette said. “When he comes in, he’s instant impact. He’s one of the most talented guys I’ve ever played with.”
14: Turnovers committed by the D-Fenders. L.A. took care of the ball all night, finishing with six more assists than giveaways, while the Warriors struggled to a 17-25 assist-to-turnover mark. Magette was key to this with 12 assists, five steals and four turnovers.
The D-Fenders pay a visit to Bakersfield (0-1) on Tuesday for a meeting with the Jam at 7 p.m.